April 17, 2004


What Iraqis Want: We'll settle for nothing less than sovereignty, democracy and justice. (AHMAD CHALABI, April 17, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The CPA, the Iraqi Governing Council and the provisional government that will take power on June 30 must make greater efforts to bring the fruits of liberation to the lives of the mass of the Iraqi people. Sadr has attracted support because of growing discontent among the Shia. Dispossessed, abused and disenfranchised for so many years under the Baath, Iraq's Shia rejoiced at America's promises of liberation and democracy. Yet one year later liberation has become occupation, democracy is delayed, Baathists are returning to positions of influence, and while mass graves and torture centers have been revealed, the victims have yet to receive justice.

The alienation of the Shia is fostered by increasing calls in Washington, backed by the Arab capitals, for scaling back de-Baathification and bringing about "national reconciliation" between Iraq's communities. Both of these are seen by the Shia as euphemisms for renewed Baathist domination and Shia disenfranchisement. Careless comments by American politicians such as Sens. Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller, who recently criticized the de-Baathification process, are replayed with glee by the Arab media and serve only to heighten the anxieties of the Shia majority and propel them into the arms of Sadr.

At the same time there must be greater efforts to empower the leaders in the Sunni community who are opposed to Saddam and Baathism and will support democracy in the new Iraq. There are many such leaders but they lack resources, organizational skills and, most importantly, the confidence to speak out. Iraqis must understand that democracy is not a zero-sum game where one community will triumph at the expense of others.

A year after Saddam was deposed, the Iraqi people are grateful for liberation but tired of occupation and delayed promises. Only sovereignty, democracy and justice will satisfy us now.

And why should the Shi'a accept anything less?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2004 2:06 PM

Yes, but we don't have to be more Shi'a than the Shi'a.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 17, 2004 6:51 PM

So, one sleazy, westernized Iraqi with no constituency and -- especially noteworthy -- no connection whatever to the dominant spiritual/cultural aspirations of the people in Iraq says they'll settle for nothing less than westernization?

And what do the actual people in Iraq say? They've been telling us for months now, and it ain't any of those things.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 17, 2004 10:24 PM

That they want self-determination and won't have it until we leave. They're more Western in that regard than we're being.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2004 10:29 PM

They do not want self-determination for Iraq, a thing that scarcely exists.

They want self-determination for their own cliques.

Fair enough. Then you are obliged to support -- or at least not interfere with -- the creation of a Great Kurdistan.

In fact, I do support such a thing. It means throwing over Turkey, Iran and Russia, but I'm willing.

Won't be cheap though, but principles often aren't.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 18, 2004 7:28 PM

There's already a Kurdistan.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2004 8:18 PM